ATLANTA (December 16) – Georgia Tech’s first scheduled practice for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl was washed out by rain Saturday, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the 15th-ranked Yellow Jackets (9-2) as they prepare for their Dec. 29 matchup with LSU (7-4).
“We’re excited to be going to the Peach Bowl,” said head coach George O’Leary, whose squad finished final exams Friday and will practice through Dec. 22 before breaking for Christmas. Tech is scheduled for a Sunday workout at 2:45 p.m.
“I’m very happy that the seniors voted to stay in town. The exposure of a bowl game is great. Plus it allows you to get your younger players a lot more practice time. It’s almost like another spring ball, and it gives you an idea of what you should be looking at in recruiting.”
O’Leary said he did not expect Tech’s high-powered offense, which averaged 33.8 points and 435.4 yards per game, to miss a beat with the departure of offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, who moved on to the head coaching position at Maryland. Running backs coach Bill O’Brien, a member of the Tech staff since 1995, was promoted to offensive coordinator.
“I was happy to elevate Bill O’Brien,” said O’Leary. “There’s no question he’s the right guy for the job. I’m always going to promote from within whenever I can. You go with the people who know what you’re looking for. Bill will do a fine job. I’m excited about it and I know he is.
“I would doubt very much that the offense will change a lot. I think you go with what got you here. You don’t put in a lot stuff in a week of practice. You go with what got you to this game. I would expect that over the winter months and into next season, there will be some changes, but not for the bowl game. We’ll pretty much mix it up the way we have for 11 games.”
O’Leary elected not to hire permanent replacements for Friedgen and defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo until after the bowl game.
“I’ve elevated the G.A.’s for now,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to bring in anybody in a three-week span. I thought the two G.A.’s would have a better understanding of what we’re doing, so John Donovan will help with offense and Geoff Collins will help with defense. They’re getting an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to advance themselves, and they understand that after the bowl game I will make decisions that are going to be best for the program.”
Both Tech and LSU had strong finishes to their seasons. The Yellow Jackets are riding a seven-game winning streak, while the Tigers won four of their last five games.
“Offensively, a lot of things rotate around their quarterback, Josh Booty, their tailback [LaBrandon Toefield] and their receiver [Josh Reed],” said O’Leary of Nick Saban’s Tigers.
“They’re a power football team that can run it between the tackles and outside with some speed. They throw the ball with great accuracy to pretty good athletes in open space.
“Defensively, they’re a team that has great athletic movement. They’re basically a seven, eight-man front. They play a lot of man coverage and do a good job of disguising things.
“Nick has done a good job of getting the players to play hard for 60 minutes and get better each week. You can see that as you watch the progression of film. They’re doing a good job of getting a lot of people to the ball on defense and making big plays on offense.